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FOREX-Dollar off recent highs ahead of expected Fed rate hike
March 15, 2017 / 5:25 AM / 8 months ago

FOREX-Dollar off recent highs ahead of expected Fed rate hike

* Market prices in more than 90 pct chance of Fed lifting rates

* Euro pressured, off peaks as Dutch vote looms

* Sterling nurses losses after plumbing two-month lows

TOKYO, March 15 (Reuters) - The dollar wobbled in a narrow range in Asian trading on Wednesday, as investors waited anxiously to see what clues the U.S. Federal Reserve would soon reveal on its monetary policy outlook.

With the futures market pricing in more than a 90 percent chance that it would raise interest rates, investors’ main focus turned to what the Fed’s statement on Wednesday will say about the pace of hikes this year.

“With a rate increase already priced in, we will be watching to see whether the Fed gives any hints about changing its outlooks for inflation or growth,” said Kumiko Ishikawa, FX market analyst at Sony Financial Holdings.

“There is a small chance the Fed will signal plans to raise rates four times instead of three this year, which would lift the dollar,” she said.

Against its Japanese counterpart, the greenback edged up 0.1 percent to 114.81, remaining shy of last week’s peak of 115.51, which was its highest level since Jan. 19 as expectations built for the rate increase.

“I think the dollar might have trouble above the 115 level today, with Japanese exporters still seeking to sell above it ahead of the end of the Japanese fiscal year this month,” said Kaneo Ogino, director at foreign exchange research firm Global-info Co in Tokyo.

“Of course, everyone is waiting for the Fed, so we’re expecting range-bound trading until we get some clear signals about expectations for the rest of the year,” he said.

U.S. inflation data overnight cemented rate hike expectations. U.S. producer prices rose more than expected last month, marking the most robust year-on-year gain in nearly five years.

The Bank of Japan also began a two-day monetary policy meeting on Wednesday. It is expected to hold its policy steady and stress that inflation is nowhere near levels that justify talk of withdrawing its massive stimulus.

Sterling nursed its losses after tumbling to an eight-week low of $1.2110 in the previous session, amid worries about a prolonged and painful process of the UK’s exit from the European Union. It was last steady on the day at $1.2166.

British Prime Minister Theresa May won parliamentary backing on Monday to begin the process of leaving the EU and start two years of talks that will shape the future of Britain and Europe, as Scotland mulled a possible second independence referendum.

The euro edged up 0.1 percent to $1.0614. It remained below its Monday high of $1.0714, which was its loftiest perch since early February, as concerns about a Dutch vote offset market speculation that the European Central Bank could be poised to wind down its stimulus programme.

The Netherlands will vote on Wednesday in an election that was seen as a test of anti-immigrant sentiment, even before a rift with Turkey at the weekend put immigration and nationalism at the top of the political agenda.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six rival currencies, was flat at 101.71. (Reporting by Tokyo markets team; Editing by Richard Borsuk and Randy Fabi)

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